A few days ago I came across the documentary Heal. The film is about the nontraditional treatments of chronic illnesses such as cancer. I have written before about my disinterest in the latest “miracle” cure opting instead for my oncologist’s recommendations coupled with my lessons in recovery from alcoholism and life in general over the past three decades. But the documentary description caused me to give it a shot.
Here is what got my attention in the film. Kelly Turner talked about her dissertation research of 1500 case studies of cancer patients who had gone into remission both with and without traditional medical treatment. She recorded 75 different practices the 1500 individuals carried out. She noted nine practices that all 1500 individuals held in common, as follows:
- Radical change in diet
- Take control of own health
- Follow intuition
- Use herbs and supplements
- Release suppressed emotions
- Increase positive emotions
- Embrace social support
- Deepen spiritual connection
- Have a strong reason for living
This list got my attention. All nine items I have either practiced for many years or began in the past year. Examples of the latter are radical diet change and taking control of health. The other seven items flow directly from my past three decades of 12 Step Recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Another reason the list got my attention is because my oncologist and other medical folks remain amazed that I am still so active despite a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. But when I follow my intuition in what foods are good for me to eat, when I am in community with my family and friends, when I take part in services and activities at my church and the School for Contemplative Living, when I am active in various projects, when I listen to positive affirmations and guided imagery related to cancer, to name but a few practices, I simply feel better, have more energy, less pain, and experience the peace that passes all understanding.
I know that without these practices, I will go deep into my addictions and be filled with misery and self-loathing – and I suspect that my original cancer prognosis (dead by last Christmas) would have come to pass.
Where do I go from here? I will certainly continue the current treatments prescribed by my oncologist. My monthly x-geva injections are working wonders.
But I also have a responsibility to act. I often comment that a mystical truth for me comes from the Gospel of Matthew (7:7-8):
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Those steps all require action. Over my past three decades of recovery from alcohol and drugs, without exception, when I have carried my part of the load, I have received, found, and the doors opened. Will I be in remission one year from now? dead? or in the same condition as today? I don’t know. I have continued hope based in faith as discussed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
. . . hope is different in that it is based not on the ephemerality of feelings but on the firm ground of conviction. I believe with a steadfast faith that there can never be a situation that is utterly, totally hopeless. Hope is deeper and very, very close to unshakable . . . p. 122, The Book of Joy
This mystical truth is as valid to me and as well-tested as the latest chemotherapy or immunotherapy drugs. The spirit and the mind are integrally linked to my being alive today and tomorrow.